Clean Water, Deep Learning: A Design Project about Water Quality in the Wilson River Catchment Area, Northern River of New South Wales

By Leonie Lane.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

No global environmental issue is as urgent as water. Its quality, availability, usage and ownership define our future. It is particularly pertinent in Australia, one of Earth’s driest continents. Engaging design students with ecological issues can provide a deep, skill-based learning experience and an enriched understanding of environment and community. At a small regional university in the relatively well-watered northern NSW, first year Visual Arts/Design students undertake a personal and community based investigation into the health of the local river system - the Wilson River Catchment Area - under the auspice of the local water utility, Rous Water. Community liaison was facilitated through Sustainable Futures Australia. Approximately eighty students participated in the Clean Water project, creating design outcomes reflecting on the health of the local river system. Primary source material about water is discussed via the university intranet. Here different experiences of ‘place’ and water with stories of local prior and present habitations are recorded and exchanged. Informed by issues raised, a site investigation follows employing an active research approach as generally practiced in visual arts. A section of the Catchment area is chosen where information is gathered via drawing, painting, frottage, writing, photography and debris collection. This raw material is then processed into a digital storyboard representing a personal response to element and place. Research is further enhanced by student attendance at information days held within the sub-catchment’s areas as well as the regional Big Scrub Rainforest Information Day where material from local community and environmental science and indigenous knowledge is garnered. With this developed understanding, posters and t-shirts themed around the importance of water quality are designed. Guided through the concept and design process, utilizing personal narrative and specialist research material, students developed design outcomes around an important global and local issue.

Keywords: Design Education, Environment, Community, Water

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp.15-30. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.988MB).

Ms Leonie Lane

Lecturer in Digital Art and Design, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Visual Arts Program, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW, Australia

Leonie Lane is a graphic designer/visual artist who teaches Digital Art and Design in the Visual Arts Program, School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University, Lismore. Her research interests and current art practice deals with notions of ‘place’, personal narrative and social identity via digital imaging and installation. These themes are evident in her MA research project, ‘(un)folding landscape and identity’ as well as the large community art project, ‘Wilsons River Experience Walk’ in Lismore. Her work references her upbringing in this area seen through experience and technologies gained elsewhere. In Sydney, she was an active partner in Redback Graphix and worked as a freelance designer and with the Antart studio. Commissions have ranged from community art projects and public awareness campaigns (Literacy, Amnesty International, Aboriginal Health, Occupational Health and Safety) to music, film and theatre promotions.


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